Divest fossil fuel stocks

Amidst pressure from the Vermont Sierra Club and 350Vermont, Governor Shumlin and legislative leaders have urged the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC) to divest from coal, Exxon Mobil and fossil fuels, the businesses largely responsible for - and profiting from - climate change. Vermonters are shocked to hear that Vermont pensions are invested in industries that profit from harming our environment. Owning my own business, I can easily ensure that my investments are consistent with my beliefs. Unfortunately, our hard working teachers and public employees currently have no choice.

As an educator, I know how easy it is to focus on one's work and pay little attention to how one's retirement is being invested. When I was teaching full time, I had three choices of retirement funds, and there appeared little difference between them. Then the movement to divest from tobacco came along, and one retirement option was tobacco free. I and many others gravitated to that fund. Not only did our choice align with our values, but it out-performed the other two funds. It is possible to be both fiscally responsible and socially responsible at once.


Advertisement

Fossil fuel stocks are today's tobacco stocks and I urge anyone with a retirement plan and a social conscience to make their retirement portfolio fossil-fuel free. Divesting from fossil fuel stocks is investing in a cleaner future and is sound investment strategy: had the VPIC controlled funds been free from fossil fuel stocks, the fund would have grown $77 million over the past three years (source: Decarboninzer, http://gofossilfree.org/decarbonizer/). As more nations realize that mitigating climate change requires leaving most known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground, shares in fossil fuel companies will increasingly become stranded assets. Investors who still insist that fossil fuel stocks are a good investment, might consider this: what good is socking away funds for the future, and for future generations, if that future is on a planet dirtied by those same investments?

If, like me, you believe that one way to curb climate change is to divest from fossil fuel stocks, please consider either tailoring your retirement portfolio to exclude these stocks or, if you're part of a group, requesting that those overseeing your retirement portfolio do so. In the case of VT NEA, VSEA, and VT Municipal Employee members, you can contact union leaders and VPIC to make your feelings known. The time for action is now.

— David Ellenbogen Calais